Mad Catz are a company that turned their fortunes around with the launch of Capcom’s Street Fighter 4 and their new line of fighting game peripherals which would go on to take the fighting game community (FGC) by storm over the lifespan of Street Fighter 4.
With the release of the “next gen” PS4 comes both a new Street Fighter game and a new range of peripherals from Mad Catz. Today I shall be looking at the options available alongside the Street Fighter V launch.
Mad Catz are releasing three new arcade sticks as well as a new control pad. They already had one existing PS4 arcade stick released, the Tournament Edition 2 (TE2), so I shall include that as well.
The total range of arcade sticks from Mad Catz on the SFV launch will be the TE2+, TE2, TES+ and the FightStick Alpha. While the new control pad is simply called the FightPad Pro. All of these products have been designed with the end user and their requirements in mind, and it is important when reading this to remember who the end user for each product is likely to be. It is also worth noting that all of these products work on both the PS4 and PS3 as well as PC out of the box. The TE2 is also available on 360 and Xbox One.
Fighting games, especially the Street Fighter series, began in the arcades, and many people started playing them there, and thus prefer the arcade style inputs, thus the arcade sticks were born for home play. However with every new game there will be new, and younger, players coming to the genre. These players will likely see many of the pro players like Mad Catz’s sponsored Daigo Umehara or Tokido doing well in the major tournaments using arcade sticks.
However many arcade sticks can be quite expensive, and newer players (like I once was), don’t want to risk £150-200 buying an arcade stick if they can’t be certain they’ll, in the end, prefer playing it over a control pad. For those players Mad Catz have introduced the FightStick Alpha:
Coming in at £69.99 at Game (at time of writing) this is a much cheaper option than the other arcade sticks I shall be writing about today. I recall that when I got my first arcade stick, I was looking at various price options, and back then the message was clear – you got what you paid for. However when I got to sit down for a few games of SFV with the FightStick Alpha at the SFV London Launch event I was pleasantly surprised. An initial worry was that the Alpha would pale in comparison to the other sticks purely because it lacked the Sanwa buttons and joystick (Sanwa being one of two main companies who supply the buttons and sticks for actual arcade machines). However the stick felt nicely responsive, as did the buttons. While time will ultimately tell if they will hold up as well as their Sanwa counter parts, the initial reaction was positive.
The only downside of the Alpha, for me, was the size of the unit. Having quite large thighs I found that the base of the stick was about an inch or two shy of sitting on my lap comfortably. It’ll be an ideal size for younger or smaller players (being anyone much smaller than a fully grown man), or anyone who can, or prefers, playing on a surface such as a table or desk rather than their lap.
The main point of the Alpha is its price, at nearly half the RRP of the next arcade stick on this list it is a much more reasonable option for someone who wants to experiment with an arcade stick, before spending big bucks on the same products that the pros use. It is also worth noting that, in my experience, arcade sticks don’t tend to lose much value – if you want to try an arcade stick, and then either don’t like it OR you love it and want to upgrade to a better model, you shouldn’t lose a whole lot of money if you were to sell the Alpha on.
Alpha TL:DR – Nice little starter stick, reasonably priced. Probably not suitable for existing arcade stick users.
Next in the Mad Catz range is the TES+. The new “+” models indicate that they come with the added touch pad functionality of the DS4 controller, as well as additional buttons for LS and R3 (The analogue clicks on the DS4 controller). Other than that the TES+ is largely the same as the PS3/360 Mad Catz Tournament Edition (TE) which is one of the best and most popular arcade sticks ever made. With the TES+ Mad Catz have roughly said “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” So they’ve simply added the extra functionality of the DS4 vs the DS3 controllers to the old stick, upgraded it for the PS4 play, thrown on some very sexy new “Shadaloo” artwork and you’re on for a winner.
Coming in at £159.99 at Game (At time of writing – though think I’ve seen it for £150ish elsewhere) This is roughly what you expect from this level of arcade stick. The old TE stick used to retail for about £120-130, my first was £120 RRP. So add a few years of inflation, some new tech in there and the slight rise in price isn’t terrible in my opinion.
The TES+ is a workhorse stick; it does exactly what you need for playing fighting games at a competitive level – all the way to the highest levels, without any bells or whistles. It comes with all the Sanwa buttons that the Alpha lacked, the base of the unit is solid, fits very comfortably on ones lap and is nice and heavy – which is important for keeping it steady – as you don’t want it to move about when you’re playing.
TES+ TL:DR – Upgraded version of the old TE, does everything you need, reasonably priced.
Following on from the TES+ comes the newer model of the Tournament Edition 2 and TE2+. This one was released shortly after the release of the PS4. Originally the TE2 came in blue for PS4 and red for Xbox, seeing as I dislike blue I didn’t get one right away, and instead waited and ended up importing the Guilty Gear Xrd special edition TE2 from Japan, mostly because it has black features instead of blue. But this is a stick I have a lot of familiarity with; I’ve been using it since USF4 launched on the PS4. This arcade stick takes everything that the old TE workhorse had, and asked “What bells and whistles can we add?”
The TE2 and TE2+ are slightly bigger than the old TE model (big enough that it won’t fit in my old TE carry bag!) they are still nice and heavy, don’t budge during use and of course have all of the Sanwa parts. Everything the TE had, brought forward. If you’re new to arcade sticks, you’ll possibly not know that there is a large user-base who likes to modify their arcade sticks. From simply changing the artwork and putting different colour buttons in, to completely rewiring the internals of the arcade stick to allow it to work on a bigger variety of systems etc. The TE2 and TE2+ start their bells and whistles off with making their modification to be SO much easier.
On the front of these arcade sticks is a back lit button that when pressed, releases the top of the arcade stick and allows it to open up on hinges for incredibly easy access to the insides. Included inside is a multi-tool that allows you to then access/open/remove everything on the inside or outside of the unit. From quick button changes to art swaps and anything else you might want to venture into. Also included is a space to keep spare buttons, so should you find something ever go wrong, you can easily pop open the stick and change the part on the fly. It is important to note that while all of these modifications can be carried out on the TES+, you need tools to open the arcade stick up and get inside, with the TE2 and TE2+ it is MUCH easier.
Also included with the TE2 and TE2+ is a change of USB cable connection, where the old TE had a built in USB cable and a hidden compartment to coil the wire into, the newer models make use of Mad Catz’s “PRO USB” cable, which means the cable is detachable (having its own storage compartment within the stick) and perhaps more importantly it is replaceable, should something unfortunate happen.
Along with the opening top panel the TE2 and TE2+ models are extremely versatile for modification options, Mad Catz sell replacement sides and bezels in a variety of different colour options. And various places sell buttons and ball tops for the joystick in all the colours under the rainbow, so once you’ve designed your fancy new artwork it is really easy to then complete the rest of the stick around it!
Being Mad Catz’s “premium” arcade sticks the TE2 and TE2+ do come with a slightly heftier price tag, new comers might blanch at the price of the sticks, but relative veterans like myself were happy to pay the money knowing it’d be the best product going. The TE2 is currently £179.99 at Game (at time of writing) and if you shop around can be found in a few different designs, from the standard “Mad Catz” stick with relatively plain black artwork and blue side panels, to the popular “Chun-Li” edition which is entirely blue. The TE2+ comes in only a single option currently, retailing at £199.99 (Currently not shown on the Game site). The SFV Ryu version is a black body, with white Bezel and Side Panels and the SFV Box Art of Ryu featured on its face. And as mentioned earlier the “+” means it comes with the touchpad and L3/R3 functionality.
TE2 and TE2+ TL:DR – Premium sticks at premium prices, they are what many of the pros are now using, they come all singing and all dancing – if you’re already a stick player you won’t go too wrong with one of these if you can afford it. I personally have and use a modified TE2, and hope to eventually carry those modifications forward to the TE2+ when I can get my hands on one!
Finally I’ll do a quick word on the FightPad Pro. This is Mad Catz’s latest offering on fighting game specialised control pads, during the reign of Street Fighter 4 the Mad Catz’s pads seemed very popular, but did need replacing fairly frequently, as it wasn’t easy to repair them as I don’t believe parts were readily available for them. Similar to those FightPads the new Pro model comes in a variety of designs, based on some of the classic Street Fighter 2 character motifs etc.
The FightPad Pro features the six face button layout that has become popular for fighting game controllers over the years, harking back to the Sega Saturn/Megadrive days when Street Fighter 2 first came to console. It also has an asymmetrical design, with the button palm grip being smaller than the d-pad/analogue stick palm grip. This allows for players to use the pad in both of the common ways, either resting the button palm grip on the leg and using the buttons like you would an arcade stick, or to allow easy access to all six buttons using a “regular” controller input.
I didn’t get a huge chance to really test the FightPad Pro at the SFV Launch event, apparently the d-pad has been redesigned for fighting games, however when I first picked it up it felt weird and I found it harder to use than say the d-pad on my 3DS XL that I occasionally play Street Fighter on when I’m travelling. I’d need more hands on time with the pad to really tell if it was well designed or a risk Mad Catz possibly shouldn’t have taken. But with the quality of their products in general I wouldn’t rule out the fact it could be a very good d-pad. I actually ended up using the analogue stick, which is usually my last port of call for fighting games, and while I sucked horribly at the game, the analogue stick did actually feel quite nice to use.
The FightPad Pro has all the features of the DS4, except a right analogue stick. However it does have all of the “+” features included and, of course, is a wired pad. For those not in the know wireless is heavily frowned upon in tournament settings.
Unfortunately as I’m not a pad player it is difficult to really give a great review on the FightPad Pro with only 2 or 3 games of SFV played with one. I do hope to get hold of one to get a better trial go. But it did seem well put together, and providing people can adjust to the new d-pad and it isn’t terrible, it should be a good range of pads for players so inclined.
FightPad Pro TL:DR – Not a pad player, so hard to review, felt great, d-pad seemed odd but can’t comment if that is good or bad without further hands on experience.
I hope this little review/guide has been helpful to some, it is important to remember the target audience for the different products – pro players won’t like the Alpha, because it isn’t designed for them to use – so be wary of overly negative reviews you might read on it on the big bad interwebs.
If you have any questions just let us know and we’ll do our best to answer them.